FRIDAY BOOK SHARING!
What are you reading?
This week I found myself perusing picture books about the Holocaust, helping a new teacher find resources to introduce her 9th grade students to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne and Night by Elie Wiesel. I discovered a picture book that stayed with me after finishing it. Karen Hesse’s book The Cats in Krasinski Square gives the reader a powerful story and a new perspective of Warsaw during the war. This book is a welcome addition to the classroom, especially in terms of introducing readers to the Warsaw Ghetto and the Jewish Resistance during World War II. Karen Hesse’s note explains her inspiration for the story – an article about cats outfoxing the Gestapo at a Warsaw train station. Hesse began searching for more about the Jewish Resistance and the Warsaw Ghetto. She discovered the story of Adina Blady Szwajger as well as the Ringelblum archives, both of which were instrumental to her writing of this story.
The narrator of The Cats in Krasinski Square is a young girl who has escaped the Warsaw ghetto, burning her Jewish armband and now living as though she is Polish with Mira, her older sister. The young narrator has befriended many of the cats who now wander the streets, without owners and without food. Mira and her friends are part of the Jewish Resistance and plan to smuggle much needed food to those still living in the Ghetto. When news arrives that the Gestapo and their dogs will be waiting at the train station to confiscate the food arriving with the Resistance memberr, Mira, her sister and friends gather the cats and succeed in outfoxing the Gestapo and their dogs. The food makes it to the welcoming hands of those on the other side of the wall.
The story is one of courage, bravery, and kindness. The story is appropriate for young readers, potentially grades 5 and up, and works well as an accompaniment to many of the Holocaust books in the classroom, from Number the Stars by Lois Lowry to Night by Elie Wiesel. The illustrations, by Wendy Watson, are moving and add depth to the story. The colors are muted and the subtle use of light help readers see the beautiful humanity in difficult times; the illustrations are a wonderful portrayal of the setting and time period. The Cats in Krasinski Square is a picture book worth owning and will serve as a powerful resource in learning about the Holocaust.